GOD is love (Ps 86, 16 ; Deut 7, 9 ; Ps 136, 26 ; Eph 2, 4 ; 1Jn 3, 1) and even if our feelings comes and go within us, the love of GOD is a constant in believers’ lives. Just as immutable should be the stability of our most extended “selfbeing”: family. If our soul is the center of spirituality within the body (1Cor 6, 19), the family is the center of the life outside of our limbs.
This is what we learn from the study of the Holy Scriptures and the admonition of the verse according to the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 19, the teaching that the master (rabbi) Jesus preached two thousand years ago, but which is still difficult to understand today.
What GOD has joined together, let no one separate
(Matthew 19, 6)
Our hearts are made to love, GOD first (loving Love), then ourselves and finally our neighbor. It is evident that no earthly relationship can be more familiar and therefore closer than that the one between wife and husband, and this is the kind of love to which any partner must aspire. Not only that it is unconditional, but that it strives to be indissoluble and solid in time.
Breaking the promise of marriage, namely the promise of eternal loyalty, not only goes against true love (and therefore against GOD), but also endemically hurts the family itself, that is the future of men and women, their children.
Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, because he was aware that this had to be done in order to manifest true love, the absolute one towards his neighbor (the human race, the nation of GOD). If a father and a mother are not willing to “donate” themselves even to the point of suffering in order to show themselves always faithful to each other and their dedication toward family and children, they will not succeed in making their offspring understand the true meaning of love. And if parents do not show their children what love is, then who else can teach them? These children will grow up spiritually poor, and this kind of deficiency is clearly much more difficult to deal with than the material kind.
Surely many families have experienced the anguish of suffering, and unfortunately sometimes also violence, and abuse, and these have often been the cause of the fracture inside the relationship. But problems exist in every family, indiscriminately, and every big or small issue that arises within a family always seems to start because of bad communication. If there is someone who does not listen, surely there will be someone else who cannot understand, and the Bible teaches that the people of GOD perish in lack of knowledge.
So talking helps, but praying together can really do miracles. Even a brief daily thanksgiving to GOD may be enough to remind all the family members the fundamental principles on which a healthy existence is based. “Count your blessings” is a valid quote that explains how being thankful for the things “you already have” in your life (but are often forgotten) is a great motto for strengthening the foundations of a family. A roof as refuge and shelter, food as sustenance, family members who listen to you, are often gifts that we take for granted until they are lacking. Constantly praying makes you aware that you are “remaining” under a Divine protection, and doing so together with those you love makes people even more united, as graces/concessions (but also problems) are outsourced.
The seed of prayer sprouts in peace of Spirit and family unity, an example of love for the little ones and a warning for adults and neighbors (the rest of the family, friends, relatives, neighbors, etc.).
What the Holy Scriptures teach us
From the first verses, the Holy Scriptures are immediately clear about the importance of the relationship between man (in Hebrew אִשׁ, ish) and the woman (in Hebrew אִשָּׁה, ishàh):
18 The LORD GOD said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the LORD GOD had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD GOD caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD GOD made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.
23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Thus the woman enters the Divine plan on the same level as the man. This perfect harmony receives the blessing of the CREATOR: “GOD blessed them; and GOD said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth ‘”(Gn 1, 28), and GOD is pleased with His work by saying that this” was very good “(Gn 1, 31). So even if the human being is one: “GOD created man in His image, He created him in the image of GOD; li [“lo”, in the Hebrew text: אֹתֹו (otò)] created male and female “(Gn 1, 27).
The Bible states:
וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים ׀ אֶת־הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמֹו בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתֹו זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם׃
30 Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created
“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter: “What are you making?”
(Is 45, 9)
“DIO, l’ETERNO formò l’uomo [הָאָדָם (haadàm), “il terroso”] dalla polvere della terra [אֲדָמָה (adamàh)], gli soffiò nelle narici un alito di vita [נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים (nishmàt khayìym), “soffio di vita”], e l’uomo [הָאָדָם (haadàm), “il terroso”] divenne un essere vivente [נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה (nèfesh khayàh), “anima(le) vivente]”.
(Gn 2, 7)
GOD grants man first the Spirit of Life and then the grace of a partner, and finally the man is satisfied, even if soon this state will be compromised by their “fall” into sin, causing man’s condition to collapse again into malaise. The punishment is rightly sentenced by GOD (Gen 3, 16-19) and the couple find themselves alone having to start again from scratch, from the beginning and outside the Garden of Eden (further away from the benevolence of the CREATOR). From there the path for man and woman to Redemption has always been very difficult, but the Grace and Mercy of GOD continue to guide humanity:
22 He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favor from the LORD.
(Bible, Book of Proverbs 18, 22)
9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
(Ecclesiastes 4, 9-12)
Teachings in the Christian New Testament
With regard to the indissolubility of this relationship decreed by the Divine will, one must also keep in mind the passages of the New Testament referring to Jesus’ teaching (Yeshua in Hebrew and transliterated into Greek Iesous and Latin Iesu) “that which GOD has joined together man does not separate” (Mt 19, 5-6) and “Whoever repudiates his wife and takes another, commits adultery; and whoever takes the one who has been repudiated by her husband commits adultery” (Lk 16, 18).
The doctrine reported by Saint Paul is also extremely clear: “To the married, I command, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not be separated from her husband, and if she is separated, she should remain without remarriage, or be reunited with her husband” (1Cor 7, 10-11). The doctrine reported by Saint Paul is also extremely clear: “To the married couple, I command, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not be separated from her husband, and if she is separated, she should remain without remarriage, or be reunited with her husband” (1 Cor 7, 10-11). It is therefore better for the believer not to marry (Mt 19, 8-11) unless he is really certain of the indissolubility of his bond, so as not to risk finding himself in sin.
The submission of man and woman
The submission of man and woman must therefore be first towards GOD, and then, in a mutual respect, by the woman towards her husband as ” householder”, not as supreme leader, but in the form of respect, always recognized and never imposed. Peter speaks of the “holy women who hoped for GOD, remaining submissive to their husbands, like Sarah who obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord” (1Pt 3, 5-6). And Paul of Tarsus also says: “Wives, be submissive to your husbands” (Eph 5, 22), and he says it in the same way he says: “Servants, obey your masters” (Eph 6, 5). These statements should be read naturally for the times in which they were written, the behavior of the true believer is clear: one cannot fight to change a society (in this case the family), because it will be GOD himself to change it in due time, so as the man and woman of faith behave is aware that they must change (improve) themselves first, then their family, and for the rest rely on GOD.
But this subordination of the woman to the man can remain valid only if the man really considers and treats his half according to the Pietrine advice: “You, husbands, live together with your wives with the respect due to the woman, like a more delicate vessel. Honor them, for they too are heirs with you to the grace of life. (First Letter of Peter, 1Pt 3, 7).
Woman’s submission to man was therefore a fact, a reality of the historical human condition after the sin which has gradually evolved through generations to the present day, at the same speed as the spontaneous (and natural) advancement of man and life itself on earth.
The vision of woman for the Abrahamic religions
In contrast with the pagan religions that assimilated the woman to “mother earth”, the Bible identifies the woman with life. The first woman had a natural name: Eva, חַוָּה (khavàh), “living” (Gen 3, 20). The Biblical Greek translation of the Seventy (LXX) translates Eve’s name with Ζωή (zoè), “life”. The “grace of life” comes by the grace of GOD through woman. Because of sin, the transmission of life takes place by the woman through her own suffering: “With sorrow you will bear children” (Gen 3, 15), but it is the woman who remains the principle of life for all mankind. GOD says: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your progeny and her offspring; this progeny will crush your head” (Gen 3, 15). While evil is condemned to suffer with the crushing of the head, the woman triumphs over death and ensures the continuity of mankind. Never anywhere else in the Bible is the expression “seed” used (זַרְעָ, zarà) referring to a woman”, here translated “offspring”; the Greek LXX, in harmony with the Hebrew text, translates with σπέρμα (spèrma), ” semen/seed”.
Life as a couple today
Family life today, and especially couples’ life nowadays, is seriously threatened by the excessive secularisation of society, by false doctrines. note 1
The relationships of affection, both familiar and as a couple, were generally life-long: we promised to love each other forever. Today, however, these bonds no longer unite “aeternum”, they are transformed, they no longer seem what they once were, they end what we thought they should be, they crumble and thus break the only truly intact thing in our body, the Spirit. In our age we boast of the great “abundance of goods and crops” (as the Quran chap. 57 vv. 20 explains very admirably), but what good is material well-being if in our families more than half of all marriages end with divorce? Suffering, anguish and anxiety are rampant in our society today (in the world in the last 10 years only depression has increased by almost 20%), and according to the World Health Organization (WHO) it will afflict even more that of our children, pouring into society. Fewer good rules only generate more chaos, and more libertinism only leads to more dissatisfaction, the principle of true love is disappearing forever from our memories. None of us can say that we have passed undamaged through the fire of love, to which even the power of kings submitted, and the Bible gives epic examples of that.
King David fell in love with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11, 2-4), the wife of one of his faithful soldiers, Uriah the Hittite. He saw her from the terrace, longed for her and did everything he could to possess her. But Bathsheba became pregnant and the King sent Uriah into battle in the front row, and ordered the rest of the army to leave him uncovered (2 Sam 11, 14-17). Uriah will find death, but David will find himself guilty of sin, accused by the Prophet Nathan and severely punished by the LORD (2Sam 12, 13-15), beginning with the death of the newborn child.
His son Solomon, King David’s successor, also committed sin because of his love towards many wives and concubines, testifying to the most remarkable example of how life as a couple and monogamy are the only shield against temptation. He, the most wise King in history, the one who wrote three Books of the Biblical canon, the one who built the first Temple of GOD, and the one who allows himself to be led astray in his conduct and is incumbent on sin and subordinates himself to temptation.
But this “rupture” does not only manifest itself among nations and peoples, but rather seems to enter more deeply into our Spirits when it is our own family that separates.
In recent decades we have witnessed a series of profound transformations in the relationship between us. The traditional model centred on marriage has increasingly entered into crisis, both because of the growing selfishness and ambition of men and women, and because of a rampant intolerance of one another. One no longer loves one’s neighbor as oneself (where for “neighbor” the Biblical text of Leviticus in Cap 19 literally identifies those who are near/neighbourly within the community, and thus primarily the family). Instead, all too often now, people break down their mainly moral bonds and obligations, tolerance disappears, and in the family/marital sphere people often find themselves in a separation that is often almost forced and justified by events.
Other relevant opinions
John Paul II
Pope Wojtyła at the Council of Trent (session XXIV), does nothing more than confirm what is sanctioned by tradition, establishing that GOD through marriage “brought natural love to greater perfection, confirmed its indissoluble unity, and the spouses themselves sanctified”. From here it also established, for some particular cases: “Anyone who says that the bond of marriage can be dissolved by the spouse, due to heresy or harassing cohabitation or alleged absence, is anathema. Whoever says that the Church errs when it has taught and teaches that, according to the evangelical and apostolic doctrine, the marriage bond can not be dissolved for the adultery of one of the spouses, and neither of them, not even the innocent who did not give reason for adultery, can contract another marriage, living the other spouse, and who commits adultery so much he who, rejected the adulteress, marries another, as the one who, abandoned the husband, marries another, both anathema “.
In a letter of 1789 addressed to the Bishop of Agra he explains that: “it is evident that marriage, in the same state of nature and certain long before it was raised to the dignity of Sacrament properly said, was divinely instituted so as to bring perpetuity and the indissolubility of the node, so that from any civil law can be dissolved. Therefore, although the reason for the sacrament can be divorced from marriage, as among the infidels, even in that marriage, however, if it is true marriage, it must remain and certainly remains in perpetuity that knot that from the first origin is so inherent in marriage that it must be subject to no civil power. So any marriage says contract, or is contracted in such a way as to be a true marriage, will have that perpetual knot together that by divine right must be connected with every true marriage “.
Our ancestors, the Fathers who lived before us are present in our Spirits, we all carry within us those who came before us and who have spent their entire lives devoted to the growth and evolution of the species. If, therefore, the Holy Scriptures have been the testament of this long succession of “eras”, and if these have repeatedly stressed the importance of the indissolubility of the family, then there must surely be an important reason behind all this, and it is only because of our own good that there must be. A natural will and propensity to improve ourselves only for two purposes: the first is our own increase in knowledge (well-being); the second is to allow ourselves to bequeath this knowledge to those we care about.
Note 1 By “false doctrines” is not meant “other religions”, but all those beliefs which follow false idols (false gods like money and power) and lead to immorality and regression of the personal and social human condition.